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SA students win global app prizes

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Two software development students from the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University (NMMU) in Port Elizabeth have come up tops in international app development competitions.

Jason Cross and Nicholas Jordaan first gained attention in the local software development industry in 2015, after winning the local round of Microsoft’s Imagine Cup 2015. This global technology competition provides opportunities for students across all disciplines to team up and use their creativity, passion and knowledge of technology to create applications, games as well as integrated solutions that have the potential to change the way we live, work and play. It empowers tertiary education students of all ages and skill levels with the tools, programmes, and instruction they require to turn innovative ideas into software that can tackle real world problems or provide entertainment.

Normally, the kind of students entering this competition are in the final stages of their undergraduate degrees or even Honours level, however, Cross and Jordaan entered as first years with the goal of getting a little experience and seeing how they rank in terms of skills when matched against their peers. The duo formed a team called Digital Interactive Games and saw their project, a 3D Labyrinth style game called PYA Maze of Gods, win the local round of Imagine Cup and they went on to represent South Africa at the global finals.

As a result of the vast amount of learning that this experience provided the team with, they wanted to compete again in the forthcoming Imagine Cup 2016. Their latest project, called Of Dragons & Sheep, was born out of this need and incorporated the learnings from last year’s experiences. Consequently, the team has already managed to edge out global competition to come up tops within the games category of the 2016 Big Idea: Design Winners competition as well as the games category of the 2016 Big Idea: Pitch Winners. They also landed an honourable mention in the 2016 Project Blueprint challenge.

Entries for Imagine Cup 2016 is still open to all institutions of higher learning and students can register their teams on www.imaginecup.com. The finals of the local round of Imagine Cup 2016 will take place on the 30th of March 2016.

For the first time, primary- and high school students are also able to enter in the Imagine Cup Earth category. This new online contest is open to students aged 6-18, with the goal of using computer programming to create a game, simulation, or story inspired by the kinds of earth science that NASA and other researchers do every day. 18 winning students will win prizes totalling $36 000.

Tapping into local youth to boost the SA app development market

According to the latest research from Statistics South Africa, there are about 19.706 million working-age youth (15 to 34 years) in the country, most of whom (around 9.885 million) are not economically active, meaning they are students, care takers at home, or are no longer actively seeking employment opportunities. Approximately 6.239 million are employed, while 3.646 million were unemployed and looking for work.

In order for South Africa’s youth to participate in the economy and software development industry effectively, young people must be provided with the right training, opportunities, access to jobs, internships and learning experiences through initiatives like Imagine Cup.

“The phenomenal achievements of Cross and Jordaan reassures us that South Africa is on the right path of developing skills in software development that is able to compete with the rest of the world. Initiatives such as Imagine Cup provides an important avenue through which to develop future IT entrepreneurs who will soon be creating more jobs for the youth of the country and delivering apps that will grow the local software economy,” says Clifford De Wit, Developer Experience Director at Microsoft South Africa.

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Load-shedding leads
local searches

South Africans are searching in the dark, according to the latest Google Search trends.

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With more 1 million search queries generated in the space of 76 hours, load-shedding was by far the top trending search on Google South Africa this week.

Valentine’s Day came a distant second.

After news emerged last Sunday of the impending stage 3 load shedding, South Africans had generated more than 1-million load-shedding search queries by the time Tuesday came around:

  • “Loadshedding schedule” – generated more than 100k searches on Sunday
  • “Load shedding schedule” – generated more than 100k searches on Sunday
  • “Eskom load shedding” – generated more than 100k searches on Sunday
  • “Load shedding Cape Town” – generated more than 50k searches on Sunday
  • “Load shedding schedule” – generated more than 400k on Monday
  • “Load shedding Johannesburg” – generated more than 20k searches on Monday
  • Load shedding schedule” generated more than 200k search queries on Tuesday

Leading up to Valentine’s Day, South Africans generated close to 300k search queries related to the romantic festival, including searches for quotes and gift ideas:

  • “Valentines Day” generated more than 100k search queries on Thursday
  • “Happy Valentines Day Images” and “Valentines Day Images” generated more than 10k search queries each on Thursday, with “Happy Valentines Day 2019” generating more than 20k search queries on Wednesday
  • “Valentines Day Specials 2019” generated more than 5k search queries on Thursday
  • “Love quotes” generated more than 5k search queries on Thursday
  • “Valentines Day quotes” generated more than 100k search queries and “Valentine messages” generated more than 50 000 search queries on Wednesday

Search trends information is gleaned from data collated by Google based on what South Africans have been searching for and asking Google. Google processes more than 40 000 search queries every second. This translates to more than a billion searches per day and 1.2 trillion searches per year worldwide. Live Google search trends data is available at https://www.google.co.za/trends/hottrends#pn=p40

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Showmax invites
student films

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Thanks to the growing popularity of video-on-demand services, there’s a new opportunity to help kickstart the careers of local filmmakers.

Numerous Hollywood blockbusters (District 9Tomb Raider 2018, and The Avengers: Age of Ultron to name a few) have featured substantial shoots in Johannesburg and Cape Town. While providing great opportunities for SA’s production talent, aspiring writers and directors don’t get the same benefit.

So where can local creatives showcase their work? Broadcast TV isn’t a natural home for unknown short films, and while self-publishing platforms are readily available hosting options, it’s tough to get noticed and get traffic when competing with videos from across the planet.

But with the emergence of video-on-demand services into the mainstream, there’s now a solution. The African film school AFDA has teamed up with the streaming service Showmax to give local talent a much larger platform than ever before. From 18 February, eighteen of the best recent short films made by AFDA students from their Johannesburg, Cape Town, Durban and Port Elizabeth campuses will be live on Showmax. Drama, documentary, fantasy, and animation are all represented, in pieces running from under eight minutes to almost half-an-hour long. The full list of movies is included below.

Teresa Passchier, CEO of AFDA, said: “AFDA, Africa’s number-one school for the Creative Economy, is proud to kickstart this exciting and meaningful journey with Showmax and AFDA students, ensuring emerging young African filmmakers’ voices are heard and given a platform. It’s ground-breaking to share young, local, culturally relevant content on the same platform as Hollywood blockbusters. I am certain that this unique initiative will serve to boost and develop the African film industry and the careers of many young South African and African students alike.”

Included in the short films coming to Showmax are the award winners Junior and O-PunchaJunior, directed by Bert Dijkstra, picked up the Audience Award in the Made in South Africa Competition at the shnit Worldwide Shortfilmfestival Awards 2017. O-Puncha, directed by Adam Hansen, won two awards at the 5th annual Eldorado Film Festival: Best Student Made Short, and Best Editing – Alexander La Cock.

Another celebrated film is Sicela Amanzi directed by Mlu Godola, which talks to the subject of water shortage. The film’s heroine Zoleka is a mild-mannered young woman forced to go to extreme lengths when a small community’s only source of water unexpectedly collapses. The power of films like this is they shine a light on critical topical issues in new ways.

Speaking about working with the film school, Candice Fangueiro, Head of Content for Showmax, said: “There’s immense depth of filmmaking talent in Africa and it’s a privilege to be able to give that talent a home and a platform. Showmax is becoming part of the fabric of film and TV production in Africa, and importantly we’re doing this as a partner rather than just as a consumer. This is a key competitive advantage of being local and something we aim to continue to work on.”

AFDA is an Academy Award-winning institution, founded in 1994, and the first and only African film school to win an Oscar – for the Best Foreign Student film in 2006, the postgraduate film Elalini, directed by Tristan Holmes.

The full list of AFDA short films coming to Showmax is as follows:

Film titleDirectorGenre
Lullaby from the CryptKeenan Lott & Raven DavidsAnimation
Ko Ga CherenyaneSibonokuhle MyatazaDocumentary
IzilwaneKyllian RouxDrama
MallemeuleJaco Van BoschDrama
Canal StreetBrodie MuirheadDrama
On the FenceWarrick BewsDrama
The Righteous FewLindo LangaDrama
Hlogoma PeakLuke AhrensDrama
Frozen FlameCameron HeathmanAnimation
WolfBrett van DortFantasy
The Walk HomeSisanda DyantyiDrama
BearWesley RoodtDrama
JuniorBert DijkstraDrama
O-PunchaAdam HansenDrama
UmngenoSiphosethu NdungeDrama
DoreenLuvuyo Equiano NyawoseDrama
ForeverLindo LangaMusical
Sicela AmanziMlu GodolaDrama

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